Hazmat Studies: Protecting the World's Biggest Railroad Yard

Bailey Rail Yard in Nebraska, on the west side of North Platte, is the largest railroad classification yard in the world. Named in honor of former Union Pacific Railroad President Edd H. Bailey, the yard covers 2,850 acres with a total length of eight...


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Recently, the Union Pacific purchased a foam trailer for use by the fire department and housed in a special building at Bailey. It carries 275 gallons of AFFF alcohol-type foam concentrate for ethanol and other polar solvent chemical fires and spills. Foam can be delivered from a master stream nozzle mounted on top of the trailer and two handlines. Approximately 300 feet of both 2½-inch and 1¼-inch handlines are carried on the trailer. Water can be supplied from a hydrant or fire apparatus or pumped from a 10,000-gallon portable tank or a static water source. If additional foam is needed, the Union Pacific has trailers in Salt Lake City, UT, and Des Moines, IA, that can be mobilized. Mutual aid from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad also is available. Another 350 gallons of alcohol-type foam is stored at the North Platte airport.

In October 2012, the North Platte Fire Department and hazmat personnel responded to an oil storage tank fire at Bailey shortly after 1 P.M. The 15,000-gallon tank caught fire from a suspected short in a heater located just above the liquid level, which ignited the vapors in the tank. Pressure built up in the tank, causing a tank rupture and sending the top of the tank 150 feet away. There were no injuries, but minor damage occurred to a nearby building. The Union Pacific foam trailer was placed in operation to fight the fire with foam.

The Union Pacific provides approximately 2,500 emergency responders with training annually in the areas served by the railroad. In 2012, Union Pacific completed its 50th class at the Association of American Railroads Security and Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo. They also participate in industry-wide whistle-stop training tours and Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER).

For additional information, contact North Platte Fire Department Chief Dennis Thompson at ThompsonDR@ci.north-platte.ne.us, 308-535-6761. Further information about the Union Pacific Railroad is available at www.up.com; and click on contact and you will see the name of a contact person in your area. n